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Spectacular Blackness

Spectacular Blackness: The Cultural Politics of the Black Power Movement and the Search for a Black Aesthetic

Amy Abugo Ongiri
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrht8
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  • Book Info
    Spectacular Blackness
    Book Description:

    Exploring the interface between the cultural politics of the Black Power and the Black Arts movements and the production of postwar African American popular culture, Amy Ongiri shows how the reliance of Black politics on an oppositional image of African Americans was the formative moment in the construction of "authentic blackness" as a cultural identity. While other books have adopted either a literary approach to the language, poetry, and arts of these movements or a historical analysis of them, Ongiri's captures the cultural and political interconnections of the postwar period by using an interdisciplinary methodology drawn from cinema studies and music theory. She traces the emergence of this Black aesthetic from its origin in the Black Power movement's emphasis on the creation of visual icons and the Black Arts movement's celebration of urban vernacular culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-2960-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Cotton Comes to Harlem AN INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-28)

    In 1966 James Meredith, a nonviolence advocate, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, and the first African American to graduate from the University of Mississippi, began a symbolic walk across the state of Mississippi that he called “The March against Fear.”¹ Meredith hoped that his act would “tear down the fear that grips the Negroes in Mississippi,” but the march ended abruptly when on the second day, he was shot by a sniper and so severely injured that he was unable to continue. Like the King assassination that was to come later, the attack on James Meredith seemed to...

  5. 1 “ Black Is Beautiful!” BLACK POWER CULTURE, VISUAL CULTURE, AND THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY
    (pp. 29-57)

    Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s simple formulation of the factors that enabled the 1965 revolution in Cuba and that could potentially enable revolution throughout the world were widely read and highly influential among all who considered themselves dispossessed and revolutionary during the social and cultural upheaval of the mid-1960s to late 1970s. In a 1968 film,Black Panther, created by the Third World Newsreel Collective and the Black Panther Party to highlight their cause and the situation of their imprisoned leader, Huey P. Newton, the camera pauses didactically on a copy ofVenceremos, a 1969 collection of Guevara’s speeches and essays, as...

  6. 2 Radical Chic AFFILIATION, IDENTIFICATION, AND THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY
    (pp. 58-87)

    In 1970, Tom Wolfe published two short accounts of the exchange between black radical politics and its white supporters that would become foundational to the ways in which that interaction would come to be defined. The cover ofRadical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catcherssports a satirical photograph of a well-coifed white woman on the lap of an African American man in an army fatigue jacket, both with black-gloved fists upraised. The caption is “BLACK RAGE AND WHITE GUILT.” Both essays in the book, “Radical Chic” and “Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers,” traded on and helped create the popular representation...

  7. 3 “ We Waitin’ on You” BLACK POWER, BLACK INTELLECTUALS, AND THE SEARCH TO DEFINE A BLACK AESTHETIC
    (pp. 88-123)

    On 24 March 1964, LeRoi Jones’sDutchmanopened at the Cherry Lane Theater, an off-Broadway stage. The play, which was both groundbreaking and controversial, would go on to win an Obie Award. Langston Hughes would characterize 1964 as “The Jones Year,” noting that Jones’s plays were so controversial that of the five staged in New York in 1964, two were shut down by order of the police (Black Magic, 251). Less than a year later, Jones would join up with a group of artists and activists to form the Black Arts Repertory Theater School in Harlem, which would stage a...

  8. 4 “People Get Ready!” MUSIC, REVOLUTIONARY NATIONALISM, AND THE BLACK ARTS MOVEMENT
    (pp. 124-158)

    “Theme music . . .everyhero needs to have some,” says the hero of Keenan Ivory Wayans’s underappreciated spoof of Blaxploitation films,I’m Gonna Get You Sucka(1988). For the African American heroes of the struggle for social justice, this was undoubtedly true. Historically, African American culture has regarded musical genres as arbiters of heroic proportions for Black styles, behaviors, and mores. African American music in turn has also repeatedly thematized heroism, tying it to collective action for social change to the extent that the struggle for social change has been reflected in every genre of every period of...

  9. 5 “You Better Watch This Good Shit!” BLACK SPECTATORSHIP, BLACK MASCULINITY, AND BLAXPLOITATION FILM
    (pp. 159-186)

    In 1965 much of the world watched on television as the Watts section of Los Angeles exploded in what was up until then the largest urban uprising of its kind in U.S. history. Images of African American bodies as active agents of violence in the rioting and as the inescapable victims of the batons and bullets of the Los Angeles Police Department and the National Guard were widely circulated. These images began to compete with the other image of African Americans created in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles through films such asHallelujah,Charles Vidor’s celebration of plantation life...

  10. Conclusion DICK GREGORY AT THE PLAYBOY CLUB
    (pp. 187-194)

    Despite the fact that Richard Wright’sBlack Power! A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathoswas one of the first widely disseminated texts to use the term “Black Power,” it is profoundly ambivalent in relation to intraracial unity, the notion of a shared racial memory, and the African liberation movements that the Black Power movement would later celebrate. Wright, who went to Ghana on the eve of its liberation in 1953 as a guest of Kwame Nkrumah, experienced Africa as both intensely alienating and intensely familiar. As Wright’s title suggests, his exploration of Africa was guided by his...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 195-204)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 205-218)
  13. Index
    (pp. 219-223)